The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through Sunday, September 23, $25
Athol Fugard’s year as the inaugural Residency One playwright at the new Signature Theatre concludes in triumphant fashion with the New York premiere of the subtly powerful The Train Driver, following previous productions of Blood Knot and My Children! My Africa! On a wide, shallow stage covered in sand, dirt, rocks, and garbage, Simon Hanabe (Leon Addison Brown), an old, slow-moving black man with a shovel, approaches the audience, explaining that he has a story to share. The play then shifts to a flashback as Simon, the caretaker who buries the men, women, and children with no names in this makeshift graveyard/junkyard, is approached by Roelf Visagie (Ritchie Coster), a destitute white man desperate to find the grave of a black woman and her baby, claiming that she ruined his life. As Roelf’s harrowing tale emerges in long soliloquies (wonderfully delivered by Coster), Simon (expertly played with understated simplicity by Brown) goes about his daily business, sweeping the sand, heating canned food over a candle in his dilapidated shack, and sleeping on a ratty reclining chair. He tells Roelf that they both will be in serious danger if the local band of tsotsi, murderous thugs, catches him there, where no white man is supposed to be, but Roelf doesn’t listen as he continues his search for the dead woman and child. Fugard also directs the ninety-minute show, maintaining a mood of quiet grace as day turns to night and back to day again. The relationship between the two men never falls into cliché as they drive the story to its relentless conclusion, brought together by death and white guilt. The Train Driver runs at the Signature through September 23; on September 24, the Signature will present a screening of Gavin Hood’s Oscar-winning film, Tsotsi, which is based on Fugard’s only novel.